Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 8 News List

China’s leadership of the WHO has failed

By Lin Kien-tsu 林健次

Life is invaluable. Its value cannot be calculated by mathematics. However, if it could be valued, 23 million is not a small number by international standards. Taiwan’s population ranks 56th in the world — the top third — and that cannot be ignored.

Excluding Taiwan from the WHO and the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, is not only a violation of the WHO’s avowed guidelines, it also brings significant harm to the health and well-being of all member nations.

According to the WHO constitution: “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

The dissemination of disease knows no borders. Before the source, medium and treatment of a disease is found, it could be disseminated exponentially. This means that not even the smallest nation can be ignored, not to mention Taiwan and its 23 million people.

The number of international visitors to Taiwan further stresses its importance when it comes to the global effort to prevent disease.

Last year, the number of international visitors to Taiwan reached 10,070,000, making it the world’s 30th most-visited nation. This number includes 3.5 million Chinese, 1.6 million Hong Kong and Macau residents, 1.9 million Japanese, 1.65 million East Asian visitors, 800,000 South Koreans and 520,000 Americans. There were even an average of 100 to 200 visitors per day from the UK, Germany and France.

These are not dead numbers, but living and breathing people who can bring diseases from overseas, as well as take diseases back to their own countries.

The importance of Taiwanese travelers to international disease prevention is even greater than that of international visitors to Taiwan.

Last year, 14.6 million Taiwanese traveled abroad, placing the nation among the top 20 sources of travelers. The most popular destination was Japan, which saw 4.3 million Taiwanese visitors. Japan was followed by China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, East Asia, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands.

The exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO creates a major gap in global disease prevention. If an epidemic were to spread, the people living in these nations would be the first to feel the effects.

If China does not place importance on health, human rights and human life, then so be it.

China is excluding Taiwan from the global disease prevention system managed by the WHO for political reasons. This means that it is bringing every WHO member state down with it, and the price is these nations’ interests and the lives of their citizens.

This is the consequence of leaders allowing China to lead the WHO, even when they fear the power of China’s authoritarian government.

A focus on human health, rights and life are the signs of the advancement of a civilization. The consequence of allowing China to have its way in the WHO, despite its overbearing arrogance, is that the value of health, rights and life is likely to deteriorate for all its member states. It is a sign of deteriorating human rights values and a shameful blot on every nation.

Lin Kien-tsu is a member of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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